The Prague Astronomical Clock, located in the center of Old Town Square beneath an impressive tower, appears to be a fantasy creation. The myths and traditions surrounding the creation of this Prague clock are straight out of a children’s book, complete with golden hands, mechanical motions, and starry façades. Here are some basic facts about the oldest astronomical clock in the world that is still in operation, or Orloj as it is known in Czechia, along with some suggestions for how to visit!
A visit to view this ancient clock in Prague, Czechia’s capital city, should be at the top of everyone’s travel to-do list, even if it’s just for a quick glance. It is situated right in the middle of the old town. Wenceslas Square, after all, sits at the nexus of Prague’s old town’s tangle of cobblestone pathways and pedestrian-only streets.
The Prague medieval clock was built as early as 1410, making it the third-oldest clock of its sort in the world and the oldest astronomical clock still in use. Other examples include the astronomical clocks in Rouen, Normandy, and Besançon, Eastern France.
The clock, according to mythology, was made by Mr. Hanu, a master artisan. Hanu is claimed to have been so skilled at creating the timepiece that he has blinded afterward so he could not duplicate the beauty of the clock elsewhere.
Of all, there are many myths in Europe about magnificent medieval clocks like the one in Prague, and they are probably just that—myths! After all, a historical and administrative error has revealed that Mikulá of Kada and Jan indel are actually the most likely creators of the clock.
However, in the six centuries that have passed since the Orloj’s erection, it has come to represent the city. The clock has undergone numerous renovations, repairs, and damages over time.
When the Procession of Apostles was added to the clock face in the 18th century, it is likely that this was the first significant modification. Prior to this, repairs were frequent due to the complicated structure of the timepiece, especially in the 16th century. The clock is made up of about 350 pieces in total, with over a third of those being from the 15th century.
Of course, over the years, the Prague clock has also witnessed a lot of catastrophes, tragedies, and wars. This includes the terrible fire that occurred in the middle of the 19th century. Prague residents have such a deep love for the clock that they actually raised the money for its restoration. During WWII, the Prague Astronomical Clock also suffered significant damage.
The purported prophetic nature of the timepiece is possibly the most peculiar of all the clock myths, despite the fact that there are many of them. Apparently, the clock will just stop when the remainder of the Czech Republic, including the City of Prague, is in danger. Strangely enough, the clock did stop before significant flooding in 2002!
If you want to enjoy the clock without the crowds, you’ll need to arrive earlier in the day, preferably at sunrise, for those who want to view it for themselves. Even though we arrived at the Prague clock at five in the morning, we soon realized that we weren’t the only ones out enjoying Prague’s streets.
We spotted other amateur photographers, multiple wedding picture shoots, and revelers who might not have been home since the previous night! In light of this, those hoping to see the Procession of the Twelve Apostles, which occurs when the hourglass strikes, should note that it only occurs from 9.00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and lasts for 45 seconds.
The march of Apostles can be seen from the town square, but for the greatest perspective, enter the Old Town Hall and walk to the church in the tower on the hour for a better vantage point.